Senior Thesis Abstracts 2012
Cattle Grazing and Biofuels in Kenya: Applying the Food vs. Fuel Debate To a Developing Country
Christine Badaracco 2012
In response to rapidly growing global energy demand, biofuels are a popular source of renewable energy that can effectively reduce dependence on conventional fossil fuels. When produced from plant material, however, these fuels often compete with food supplies, driving up prices. Alternatively, grasslands in Kenya can be harvested sustainably for conversion to syngas and Fischer-Tropsch synfuels. This study aims to determine whether such a scheme can be profitable, and to analyze how it would compete with the current use for cattle grazing. By setting up four experimental plots on the Mpala Ranch and Conservancy in Kenya, I tracked the ecological interactions between cattle grazing and grass growth over a grazing period, and then assessed what remained when the cattle ceased to gain weight and were therefore moved to a new plot to graze. Also, by comparing results across soil types, I aimed to capture some of the variability that would exist in larger-scale production.
This study found that the cattle began to lose weight before they had eaten half of the available biomass. If the remaining grass were harvested to produce biofuels, the sale could significantly supplement the revenue to ranch owners. Indeed, given the current price of oil in Kenya, this feedstock could be worth even more than the cattle that feed on it from the time they start grazing. This suggests that a biofuels market in Kenya could significantly help in reducing rural poverty, and could stimulate sustainable development in a country so reliant on agriculture and pastoralism for its livelihood.
Gopher Disturbance and Plant Community Dynamics in Montane Meadows
Madelon Case 2012
Pocket gophers (Geomyidae) are a major agent of disturbance in grassland plant communities throughout North America. By depositing excavated soil on the ground surface, they bury existing plants and restart succession on a local scale, potentially influencing community structure and diversity by providing opportunities for less competitive species to persist. This study examined the impact of the Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama) on montane meadow plant communities in four plots established at Bunchgrass Ridge in the Oregon Cascade Range. Each plot contained 20 transects that were sampled for percent cover of gopher disturbance and plant species present. In higher-altitude systems such as Bunchgrass Ridge, gopher disturbance occurs as mounds, which are piles of excavated soil, as well as tunnel castings, which are created when gophers tunnel through a deep snow pack and fill these tunnels with soil that settles on the ground surface after snow melt. The relationship between castings and vegetation has not previously been studied. I found that both mounds and castings negatively affected plant cover, and that species richness and spatial heterogeneity were positively correlated with total cover of disturbance. Cover of graminoids declined and the ratio of forb/graminoid cover increased with mound cover, which is consistent with the literature, but the relationship between graminoid cover and cover of castings appeared variable across the four plots sampled. As one explanation for these findings, I present a simulation model that demonstrates how the presence of a highly competitive species might alter the relationship between graminoids and disturbance. This study illustrates the critical role disturbance can play in structuring natural communities.
The Effects of Ocean Acidification on Coral Calcification: Comparing the Buoyant Weight and Alkalinity Anomaly Measurement Techniques
Aaron Cevallos 2012
The following experimental study seeks to explain the current understanding of the effects of ocean acidification on coral calcification (i.e. growth) in the context of two of the main experimental methods used to quantify this metric. This research examines the Alkalinity Anomaly and Buoyant Weight measurement techniques in order to ascertain whether or not the results they yield are directly comparable to one another, as is widely assumed to be the case among the scientific community. The ramifications of this comparison are potentially very significant, as any discrepancy between the methods is likely to cast doubt upon, or at least warrant examination of, the findings of prior studies in the ocean acidification literature.
Concerning Intrinsic Value and Biodiversity: An Examination
Ivan Charbonneau 2012
Though ethical considerations for the environment have long been discussed, only within the past few decades has the discipline of environmental ethics emerged as a distinct field of study. My thesis furthers the discourse on the evaluative thesis of non-anthropocentrism, which claims that non-human living things have intrinsic value. I examine whether or not intrinsic value can be understood so that it could apply to such a complex term as biodiversity. I review the concepts of intrinsic value and biodiversity in order to prove that the variation of species that constitutes biodiversity can possess intrinsic value as a relation. I argue that biodiversity, as a relation of organisms composed of both human and non-human living things, has intrinsic value, and consequently, biodiversity in a particular state should be preserved. This conclusion would then provide a foundation for the moral implications that we have as human beings for preserving biodiversity.
As a philosopher I need not determine how best to preserve biodiversity - that monumental task should be left to the experts, ecologists and biologists. I am, however, a philosopher confident enough in my background of environmental studies to discuss the nature of biodiversity, how a concept as abstract as biodiversity might have intrinsic value, and what particular aspect of biodiversity can be best understood as having intrinsic value. As environmental ethics continues to emerge as a distinct field of philosophical study, due to the rapidly increasing importance of environmental issues, I only hope to lay some of the groundwork in bridging the gap between science and philosophy.
How Yesterday's Merchants of Venice Led to Today's Margins and Volatility: An Intermediation-based Comparative Approach to the Leverage Cycle
Vijay Chetty 2012
This paper approaches the leverage cycle theoretically and empirically from an intermediary point of view. Using a partial equilibrium balance sheet-based model and four comparative empirical applications (US aggregate-level analysis, US individual bank-level analysis, Euro zone aggregate-level analysis, and Euro zone individual bank-level analysis), it explains the key drivers of leverage and the overall impact of leverage in today’s environment of volatile interconnected markets. Explanations are provided for the 2008 US subprime mortgage crisis and the ongoing European sovereign debt crisis, and policy implications are drawn out from results.
The environmental component of my thesis involves looking at the impact of leverage as a driver for energy commodity prices and indices. The analysis includes a time-series graph and a regression analysis analyzing the impact of US broker-dealer leverage, commercial bank leverage, and a GDP control on various commodity measures. Leverage, particularly broker-dealer leverage, is shown to be fairly important for the determination of commodity price levels and closely correlated with them as well. The environmental section also builds on work in my Junior Paper ("The impact of energy commodity prices on adoption of renewable energy technologies and hybrid vehicles"), thereby demonstrating a link between leverage in the economy and a changing energy supply composition.
Resource Use, Time Budgeting, and Social Behavior of Reintroduced Przewalski’s Horses in Kalamaili Nature Reserve, China
Justine W. Chiu 2012
Przewalski’s horses were reintroduced into the Kalamaili Nature Reserve (KNR) in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in 2001. The KNR is located in an arid semi-desert with a severe lack of water in the summer dry season; it is the driest of all current reintroduction sites for the species. The horses are moderate-climate equids with ecology and biology that suggests they cannot survive in the region. Therefore, this study aimed to understand how the arid ecology of the region is affecting the moderate-adapted horses’ behavior, specifically their time budgeting and social organization. Between 18 June and 11 August 2011, I documented the time budgeting, resource choice, and social interactions of four harem groups in the reserve using scan sampling, vegetation sampling, camera trapping, and telemetry analysis.
Results suggest that the Przewalski’s horses in the KNR were resource-stressed and experienced a strong tradeoff between water and forage. Their time budgeting was different from previous studies on the species with high grazing in the afternoon. The horses developed two alternative strategies to access resources, including movement from the primary waterhole and shadowing of more dominant groups. Intra-group associations changed due to different ecological factors; however, the harem group structure remained stable throughout the study.
This data suggest that the horses have adapted to a marginal habitat much drier than the habitat in their historical range. The study provides information on the current state of this particular reintroduction program and offers insight for future reintroductions of the horse.
Recycling Hazard: International Regulation on Electronic Waste
YunSuk Chung 2011
Over the past few decades, electronic products have become an indispensable part of today’s society. One consequence of this development has been growing piles of endof- life electronic products in landfills across the world. In turn, due to strict environmental regulations and shortage of landfills in developed countries, a substantial portion of electronic waste, often labeled as raw materials for recycling, has been exported to developing countries. There, workers dismantle electronic products to recover valuable materials, using methods that are environmentally unsound and pose a threat to human health and the environment.
In this light, the paper seeks to examine what factors explain the international movement of electronic waste, and what kind of challenges confronts the current international waste regime. Taking a step away from the traditional approach, the paper proposes to place waste in the broader context of the society. In turn, it is argued that both material and social characteristics of waste are important factors in explaining the lifecycle movement of waste. This holds especially true in the case of electronic waste. Not only are electronic products made exceptionally disposable by their hidden toxicity and social beliefs about technological progress, but they also undergo transformations of various kinds throughout the recycling process.
Consequently, regulation of electronic waste presents a unique challenge. In particular, the Basel Convention primarily focuses on controlling the transboundary movement of electronic waste after it is discarded. However, the paper argues that this approach is inadequate, because it suffers from problems associated with defining waste and does not incorporate the lifecycle movement of electronic products. After examining regulations in the European Union, Japan, and the United States, the paper concludes with a list of policy recommendations to improve the effectiveness of international regulation on electronic waste.
The Price Device: The Transformative Impact of Mobile Telephony on Agricultural Markets In Uttar Pradesh, India
Leah Cohen-Shohet 2012
The explosive growth in mobile phone adoption in developing countries may be transforming market outcomes. Especially within the agricultural markets of India, mobile phone technology provides market participants – who have historically been plagued by lack of information access – with a relatively inexpensive way of gathering reliable and timely information. Lower communication costs in turn reduce their search costs, inducing more spatial arbitrage and ultimately improving market efficiency and total welfare. Recent research has found that mobile phone adoption has reduced price dispersion across markets for a few commodities, but it is unclear whether the impact of mobile phone adoption varies by crop characteristics such as perishability. We explore this impact in two parts. In the first part, we merge market data on prices of four crops specifically chosen to resemble an entire spectrum of crop perishability with data on mobile phone adoption, rainfall, and transport costs to create a panel of market pairs in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Using market pair fixed effects, we find that mobile phone adoption has the most significant impact on reducing price dispersion of apples, onions, and rice – our selected crops of medium and low perishability. The impact is also stronger for markets separated by greater distances and with increasing transportation costs. On the other hand, this impact is not observed for bananas, our highly perishable crop. In the second part, we use a separate cross-sectional dataset to conduct a supplementary welfare analysis of mobile phone ownership for farmers across India. Using village-level fixed effects, we find that mobile phone- owning farmers receive 2.9% higher crop prices than their non-mobile phone owning counterparts, this impact mostly detected for crops of low perishability.
Characterization and Performance of Cetyl Pyridinium Exchanged Nafion Membranes In Direct Ethanol Fuel Cells
Margaret Daly 2012
In today’s rapidly developing world, alternative energy sources must be found in response to predicted environmental changes and the finite supply of petroleum-based fuels. The direct ethanol fuel cell (DEFC) is one such alternative because of its non-toxic, renewable fuel and its potential for increasing energy efficiency compared to traditional combustion of hydrocarbons. However, DEFCs must overcome significant obstacles, specifically ethanol crossover through the proton exchange polymer membrane, before they are feasible for commercialization. This thesis focuses on the problem of reducing crossover through the membrane in the DEFC while maintaining membrane conductivity.
A variety of quaternary ammonium cations, chosen for their potential ethanolblocking properties, are exchanged into Nafion membranes and characterized through numerous measurements in order to predict their performance in a DEFC. Then, cetyl Nafion membranes are exchanged with a range of exchange solution concentrations, ultimately measuring the current-voltage performance of the exchanged membranes in a DEFC. The modified membranes exhibit increased current density at a range of temperatures, but only when exchanged with dilute cetyl pyridinium chloride solutions.
Finally, NMR diffusion experiments are utilized to characterize the micellization properties of the surfactant cation when incorporated into Nafion membranes. Bayesian DOSY transformations are performed on the diffusion spectra to calculate the water diffusion coefficient in the exchanged membranes as well as characterize the components of the membrane by their diffusion properties. The results of this thesis present not only a promising cation for exchange into DEFC Nafion membranes but also an efficient NMRbased method for understanding the properties of composite fuel cell membranes for potential future development.
Political Challenges of Global Common Resource Management: A Study of Fishing Subsidy Negotiations
Ana Duarte Silva-Barry 2012
This thesis attempts to test Elinor Ostrom’s theory of common resource management. Ostrom articulates broad challenges to scaling up her theories regarding common resource management to a global scale, and this thesis will look at these challenges as they relate to current negotiations taking place within the World Trade Organization regarding subsidy reform to the global fishing industry. The analysis developed in this thesis serves as an example of a systematic evaluation of the causes behind standstills and disagreements of global common resource management. My work measures the impact of three challenges: “cultural diversity,” “interlinked common resource management,” and “Requirement of unanimous agreement as a collective--‐choice rule” on the present WTO negotiations. This is done by identifying domestic political and economic variables within the categories of “cultural diversity” or “interlinked common pool resource management” that have contributed to objections and disagreements by various countries. By measuring the correlation between certain domestic variables relating to the fishing industry, and specific positions taken in the negotiations and specific contestations, this thesis uses regression analysis and a qualitative analysis as a method of determining variables that most contribute to points of dispute. Quantitative results indicate that two variables, GDP per capita and the existence of a Distant Water Fleet in a nation, are generally correlated with specific objections to the proposed reforms. However, qualitative analysis suggests that many social, political, cultural and economic variables play a role in each nation’s position. This information not only provides a timely and concrete example of Ostrom’s theoretical challenges, but the analysis technique also has the potential to be broadened and improved upon in order to include a larger range of variables as a way of further studying these negotiations, as well as other forums of multinational common natural resource management.
A Paleontological Approach to the "Shifting Baselines" Question in Ecology: A Case Study of Caribbean Reef-Based Mollusk Communities
Alexa Fredston-Hermann 2012
In recent decades, scientists have chronicled a rapid and widespread decline in quality and extent of Caribbean coastal ecosystems. Coral reefs and seagrass meadows are both threatened by overfishing, eutrophication, sedimentation, climate change, and other anthropogenic impacts. Humans have affected tropical coastlines for thousands of years, and the beginning of anthropogenic damage usually predates any historic or anthropological records. Confusion over what these ecosystems used to look like, characterized as the “shifting baselines” syndrome, has led to ineffective management of marine populations. The fossil record is the only source of a pre-human baseline that describes truly pristine ecosystems. Until now, the paleontological approach to finding baselines has only been applied to corals. I present the first results from a recently discovered ~6.3 ka well-preserved fossil fringing reef in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Bocas del Toro has experienced overfishing since at least 600 A.D., and coastal development and eutrophication for the past century due to agriculture. I compared mollusk assemblages from coral- and seagrass-dominated habitats in the fossil reef to corresponding samples from a recent reef. On the guild level, the proportion of suspension-feeding mollusks increased 2.5-fold from fossil to recent coral habitats, and the proportion of herbivores declined by a third. In seagrass meadows, the proportion of mollusk guilds remained consistent between fossil and recent sites. I also analyzed genera and more detailed trophic groups. Mollusk communities are experiencing fundamental shifts, parallel to their coral and seagrass habitats, and can serve as proxies for environmental change in the fossil record. The trophic structure of fossil assemblages provides a pristine baseline for mollusks and can be applied to other life forms. Conservation measures implemented in coastal tropical marine habitats and other ecosystems should take paleontological baselines into account.
Dipole Design for Organic Electronic Devices
Pete Florence 2012
Variously ring-substituted phenylphosphonate SAMs (self-assembled monolayers) were investigated to surface modify electrode materials. Phenylphosphonate SAM formation on surfaces was examined with Si oxide and ITO (Indium Tin Oxide) substrates; well-packed monolayers were shown to be formed on both. SAM modification was shown to enable systematic control of the ITO (conducting oxide) work function, which was not observed on the Si native oxide (insulating oxide) surface. Control of the ITO work function was shown to correlate linearly with calculated intrinsic dipole moments of the phenylphosphonates, and not with their acidities. A high concentration of phenylphosphonic acid was found to reconstruct the ITO surface; the T- BAG method was shown to facilitate dense monolayer formation without such morphological change. Current through the ITO / P3HT (poly(3-hexylthiophene-2,5- diyl)) interface was measured using the Hg drop technique, and a new effect was discovered: certain SAM modifications were proposed to control the hole current through the ITO / P3HT interface by charge transfer from the polymer to the ITO (“p-doping”). Systematic control of photocurrent through the ITO / P3HT interface was investigated for a symmetrical (sandwich) ITO / P3HT / ITO device. Future research and applications of SAM modification (“dipole engineering”) to electrode / organic interfaces are suggested. A short chapter (for Environmental Studies Certificate) also explores how a heritage of enthusiasm in environmental consciousness can enlighten the stoichiometric possibilities of clean energy elements.
Foraging Ecology and Conservation of Wading Birds in Coastal New Jersey
Stephanie Freudenberg 2012
Wetlands are essential habitat for ciconiiform wading birds. I surveyed six species of wading birds at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Forsythe NWR), recording count and foraging data from July 1 to September 9, 2011. Snowy egrets (Egretta thula), great blue herons (Ardea herodias), glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), little blue herons (Egretta caerulea), and tricolored herons (Egretta tricolor) are New Jersey Species of Special Concern, while great egrets (Ardea alba) are considered stable. Snowy egret, great blue heron, little blue heron, and tricolored heron counts at Forsythe NWR significantly decreased between 1970-1979 and 2011.
There is evidence of spatial partitioning of water depth in these species. Snowy egrets prefer shallow (<5 cm) water, great egrets prefer deep (>15 cm) water, and glossy ibis prefer shallow to medium (5-15 cm) water. Snowy egrets and glossy ibis are more likely to be observed feeding as water depth increases, perhaps because of the relatively higher energetic costs of wading in deeper water. All three species are more likely to be feeding in the impoundments and in groups. This may be due to benefits of group foraging (e.g. prey disturbance) or because groups form where there are high quality resources.
I recommend that managers implement a biweekly count survey to monitor changes in abundance. Researchers should also locate and survey nesting colonies to monitor reproductive success and record shifts in distance from foraging sites. As water depth impacts wading bird foraging, I recommend that managers maintain water depth heterogeneity and continue to draw down water levels in the impoundments in the spring.
Derek Gideon 2012
Strange Land is a collection of poems that question our human relationship to each other and to the natural world, and whether to divide the world into those categories is even possible. The poems are rooted in the history and landscape of the author's Hudson Valley homeground, but from that perch look out to the world, taking seriously the bumper sticker injunction to "Think Globally, Act Locally." "Common Ground," a critical afterword, discusses the poems' environmental themes and the riddle forms partly inspired by forms in East African oral literature.
Inter- and Intra-Specific Shifts in Wood Characteristics Across the Midwestern Rainfall Gradient
Lucile Jarry 2012
Wood acts as a major carbon storage compartment for trees, yet its structure represents the balance of conflicting structural and hydraulic needs: suspending the photosynthetic tissues above the canopy, preventing collapse under extreme weather conditions, conducting water along the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum. These needs, complicated by competitive resource use and environmental variability, engender fitness trade-offs between several traits, including vessel size distribution and wood density.
To investigate differences in carbon storage across the rainfall gradient, I focused on shifts in total wood density. In order to understand the reasons behind these shifts, I also looked at vessel characteristics, assessing hydraulic efficiency as a possible trade-off for wood density. Finally, to understand how responsive species are to spatial variations in rainfall, I studied the phenotypic plasticity of three common species and their ecological setting within the rainfall range.
Wood traits did not vary significantly across the rainfall gradient, indicating the conflict between structural and hydraulic needs; however, a suggested increase in both wood density and vessel diameter hint at a change in forest composition from oaks in xeric sites to hickories in hydric sites. A suggested positive correlation between wood density and vessel characteristics points to hydraulic needs as one reason carbon storage may shift with spatial variation in rainfall. Significant intraspecific variation in wood traits revealed two major strategies to balance hydraulic needs and carbon storage: drought-specialists (white oaks) sacrificed hydraulic safety for hydraulic efficiency, restricting themselves to xeric sites; generalists (sugar maples) were abundant across the rainfall gradient because they prioritized hydraulic safety, but never dominated because they neglected hydraulic efficiency.
Tweet the Press -- Twitter Use in Politics, Media, and Movement Building
D.J. Judd 2012
Since its launch in 2006, Twitter has emerged as substantially more than a social networking site—indeed, Twitter has been utilized in international revolutions, domestic protests, election campaigns, advertising campaigns, and a number of other uses. Most recently, the Occupy Wall Street used the social media platform to expand from a small endeavor to an international phenomenon, in 951 cities and 92 countries. Through a series of criteria outlined by Aaker and Smith, the Occupy Movement has emerged as a highly-engaging social media campaign—what’s more is, the Occupy Movement has used adapted Twitter to suit its needs, creating the interactive Occupy Map, a world map that allows anyone to update relevant protests via tweet. The phenomenon of using Twitter to serve a further purpose is not unique to Occupy however—in fact, in the 2008 election, President Obama relied heavily on social media presence to gain support and momentum. Based on the success of the Obama campaign, several other candidates have increased their campaign reliance on social media, while consumers and news sources are using Twitter to track election polls in real time. The mainstream media has fallen behind Twitter’s alternative media, and though most mainstream media outlets have some sort of social network presence, Pew Data polls indicate that very few take full advantage of the full social capabilities. In contrast, the environmental movement has a comprehensive social media platform but struggles with guaranteeing commitment in its followers. Still, Twitter shows promise, especially in the conservation sector. Ultimately, there are several ways to mount a social media campaign, but the most successful one to date still seems to fall to the Occupy Movement.
Can Reforestation Restore Soil Quality? The Effects of Pasture Abandonment on Soil Chemistry in the Azuero Peninsula, Panama
Karen Krieb 2012
Tropical dry forest ecosystems are among the most endangered ecosystems worldwide, but today there is a unique chance for restoration of these forests due to changing land uses. Research suggests that deforestation has a negative impact on soil chemistry and that reforestation increases beneficial vegetation related qualities, but there are few studies comparing the current state of soil properties at various stages of succession in the forest. Characterization of soil attributes is essential to best take advantage of the opportunity to restore degraded land. In this study I compared soil chemistry in five different habitat types: active pasture, 1-5 year abandoned pasture, 7-45 year abandoned pasture, riparian forest, and teak plantation. I analyzed the samples for pH, total N, total C, available P, basic cation concentrations, electrical conductivity, and micronutrients. Results show that overall nutrient levels in the Azuero are below optimum, except for base cations. Pasture abandonment has a positive restorative effect on many of the soil attributes tested, although these attributes recover slowly and do not show much of a change in the 1-5 year abandonment category. Riparian forests almost always had significantly higher nutrients than active pasture, and teak had similar nutrients or even lower nutrients than pasture. Total N, total C, and available P were improved by pasture abandonment largely due to an increase in soil organic matter, but they did not improve significantly until pastures had been abandoned for decades. This suggests the importance of planting tree species that are very efficient at using and cycling C, N, and P in order to restore the soil at a more rapid pace for the farmers who live off the land.
The Reemergence of Turkey in the Twenty-First Century
Daria Alina Les 2012
Within the past decade, under the governance of the Justice and Development Party, (AKP) Turkey’s foreign policymaking has undergone a noticeable and dramatic shift away from its historically western-orientated stance towards a more Middle-Eastern stance. Many individuals and historic allies have voiced concern over the uncertainty of AKP’s departures from traditional one-sided foreign policy favoring western interests, towards the recent multidimensional policy favoring a hybrid of western and Arab interests. Increasingly, this concern has developed into a fear that secular Turkey will become an Islamic state out of distrust of AKP’s conflicting policy decisions that sometimes benefit, and other times directly challenge western interests in favor of new regional alliances. As evidence of a sweeping Islamist shift, observers cite AKP’s use of Islamist rhetoric, partnerships with foreign Islamic regimes, new regional respect and prominence as a champion of Islam, and tacit support of domestic Islamic shifts. These factors combined with concerns regarding AKP’s intentions and policies have resulted in allegations that Turkey may no longer be dependable as a western ally as it is motivated by an Islamic agenda. This research purports to show that these concerns over an Islamist Turkey do not consider Turkish security concerns, which upon analysis can account for the recent shifts in policy. In examining Turkish political history and Turkey’s contemporary security needs respective to territorial integrity, economic strength, and energy supply, it is possible to surmise the AKP’s policymaking is security-oriented. In order to ensure Turkish security needs are met, the AKP must look beyond traditional suppliers of security in the west for new alliances that supply security, especially in light of the historical inconsistency of western support and the withdrawal of Western support in the wake of the collapse of the USSR. To this end, AKP has turned to Turkey’s immediate neighbors, with whom strong alliances help ensure territorial integrity, economic cooperation, and a secure energy supply. Further, the AKP has astutely chosen to cement these relationships with rhetoric that calls upon historical Ottoman ties and a shared Muslim identity, which can account for the recent supposed shift towards Islamism. Accordingly, the ambiguity of Turkish policymaking under the AKP is the result of a Turkey having to hedge between secular western allies and Islamist regional neighbors and appear authentic to both in order to meet the particular security needs each alliance supplies.
“Spillovers” from the Environment to Equities: Investor Sentiment from Oil Spills and U.S. Stock Performance
Laiyin Li 2012
This thesis examines the U.S. stock market response to major oil spills that occurred in and around U.S. territorial waters. Consistent with previous academic literature on adverse environmental events, negative abnormal returns are found for the stock performance of firms directly responsible for the oil spills. These negative abnormal returns are also found to be persistent and increasing in magnitude over 3, 10, 30 and 60 trading days. However, negative investor sentiment resulting from the occurrence of an oil spill is ruled out as an explanatory factor for the negative abnormal returns.
Integrating Renewable Energy into the United States' Electric Grid: Identifying and Removing the Barriers to Sustainable Generation
Kayley McGrath 2012
Fossil fuels currently generate the majority of electricity in the U.S., despite the comparative benefit of renewable energy (RE) generation in terms of human and environmental health. While RE generation is increasing domestically, this progress has been modest and inconsistent. This thesis argues that various policy barriers are responsible for stunting renewable integration into the electric grid. It aims to identify these barriers and prescribe solutions to facilitate their removal.
Based upon extensive research of the relevant academic literature, case studies, and government reports, as well as interviews with preeminent thinkers in the energy discipline, this analysis updates the prevailing understanding of the obstacles to a more sustainable grid. It begins with a historical and technical overview of electrical generation in the U.S. with a focus on RE. It then details the environmental and health benefits of renewables in comparison to fossil fuels. Next, this thesis departs from the common view of RE integration by suggesting that the cost and variability of renewable resources are not ultimately preventing their more widespread use on the grid. In fact, the division of the grid into regionally concentrated transmission jurisdictions, known as regional transmission organizations (RTOs), has largely mitigated these concerns.
Despite the positive contributions of grid regionalization to the competitiveness of RE, this analysis nonetheless denounces such fragmentation as one of the five barriers to continued renewable energy integration. These five barriers consist of grid regionalization, political failings, cost allocation issues, legal precedents, and public attitudes/behavioral issues. This study identifies three “removable” barriers – namely, grid regionalization, cost allocation policies, and public attitudes – and provides recommendations to hasten their removal. Ultimately, this thesis discusses why more uniform and federally imposed cost allocation policies approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, combined with inclusive transmission planning processes that consider public and interregional interests, are necessary for an increasingly renewable electric grid.
Optimism In Concrete: Perspectives of Paolo Soleri
Tess McNamara 2012
Paolo Soleri is an Italian architect that worked and lived in the Arizona desert. In 1970 he developed the theory of arcology, a combination of architecture and ecology, in response to the sprawling and disjointed conditions of urban life. He constructed one of his designed arcology cities test his theory in the physical: Arcosanti in Arizona. This thesis is an exploration of the complex moment in time that Soleri inhabited. It explores the reasons behind Arcosantiʼs enduring presence, and asks what we can learn from this visionary thinker. I examine Soleri within the various contexts that generated his beliefs and buildings; the multi-disciplinary and cross-temporal subjects that are manifested through his lifeʼs work. In order to do this, I start in the realm of the theoretical, the no-place of utopian discourse that has evolved since St. Tomas More coined the term in 1516, and evaluate the utopian resonances within Soleriʼs work. I will look at the modern ecological movement through the lens of Spaceship Earth, a perspective that explains the desire to explore new forms of civilization. From this mindset of pursuing ecological civilizations, Soleri developed his theory of arcology, and the desire to construct the urban laboratory of Arcosanti. From Space, I move closer in scale to the physical setting of the Arizona Desert, Soleriʼs home and the site of Arcosanti itself. The desert has developed a unique persona throughout American history, an ecology that extends beyond its physical characteristics to modern aesthetic and cultural attributes. The next step closer is to the site of Arcosanti itself, which I had the opportunity to visit this January. Here I examine the specifics of Soleriʼs work, analyzing his solar inspired architecture and the success of his experiments in urban living.
What emerges from this discussion is a solar optimism that runs throughout all of Soleriʼs projects—he has endured because of the inspiring confidence he places in the conceptual. Soleriʼs work at Arcosanti is neither architecture, nor non-architecture. It goes beyond architecture—his cosmological focus and enduring conceptual belief in Arcology make his architecture purely optimistic. His is an architecture that transcends the physical, and exists as a conception of the mind. It is a built reminder that “we are all the sons of the sun,” soleri. Arcosanti is more than the physical ruin it appears to be. Soleri says that the project “is ʻoptimism in concrete.ʼ It works by believing that there is a tomorrow that can be prodigiously affirmative.”2 Though the concrete structures appear to be pessimistically demonstrating desert decay, they embody an endless optimism. This is the optimism that man can change the way he lives, emitted through a sculpted light and sculpted desert. Arcosanti has survived these forty years because it exists as a conceptual experiment. It has stayed revolutionary, proved capable of evolution, and evaded the entropic forces of the desert through its true location in the cosmos.However, the place itself, warmed by light and thick with life, is the most compelling explanationfor its endurance. Both the forms and inhabitants of Arcosanti emit a stalwart optimism that theycan change society—an optimism that has allowed Arcosanti to transcend a decaying reality.
Permafrost and Global Climate Change: Novel Models and Implications for Policy and Advocacy
Jonathan Moch 2012
Existing climate change models contain poorly-constrained influences from thawing Arctic permafrost and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions, particularly the release of CH4, despite the fact that Arctic permafrost contains approximately one half of the total below-ground organic carbon on our planet. One of the most widely cited models for CH4 emissions from permafrost, the methane dynamics module (MDM) by Zhuang et al. (2004), has never been explicitly examined for effectiveness at non-Alaskan sites. In order to investigate the processes controlling CH4 emissions from Arctic tundra and the effectiveness of the model, simulations were carried out for Axel Heiberg Island, Canada; Zackenberg, Greenland; and Happy Valley, Alaska. Results from the simulation show that CH4 emissions occur primarily through quick emissions pulses that occur at the onset of surface soil freezing and thawing. Simulations indicate that these emissions pulses are due to the inhibition of CH4 diffusion by surface soil that is saturated or frozen. Investigations into the effectiveness of the MDM suggest that the maximum methanogenesis and methanotrophy rates are severely under-constrained and that the current structure of the MDM may be unable to accurately project future CH4 emissions. Eliminating some of the modifiers and using new data to redefine maximum rates as more constrained can improve the ability of the MDM to predict current CH4 emissions from Axel Heiberg. This process could also be carried out for other sites and should greatly improve the ability of the MDM to simulate current and future CH4 emissions.
Constructed Islands: An Ethnography of a Maldives Imagined Elsewhere and the Choice of Climate Change as Narrative
On a map, the Maldives is a small point, only represented by name on a map large enough to include other countries. Defined by that distance and peripherality, Maldivians are seeing and seeking themselves elsewhere. In my fieldwork among a community of young adults living in the capital city, I observed pathways of re-signification and selflocating.
As they returned from studying abroad, they brought back international concepts of democracy and human right as well as an understanding of the limited knowledge of their country abroad. As they seek to locate themselves and the Maldives amidst the rest of the world, they are starting new NGOs focused on democracy and human rights (and conspicuously not climate change) as a way of imagining alternative futures for the country and for themselves within it. The development of the country becomes a proxy for their own maturation into young adults, as the democratic 'coming-of-age' they catalyzed just as they came of age led to the 2008 Presidential election of a member of their community, former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Furthermore influenced by their search for understanding their country's unique importance among other countries despite their peripherality, they are always seeing the "real Maldives" as elsewhere - e.g. advising me "you must go to the islands; they are the real Maldives" even as they live on the capital city island. Thus in trying to locate the Maldives in the world, they are always seeing the "real Maldives" elsewhere and imagining the country and themselves as otherwise.
I too started to see myself in the Maldives, reflecting my entrance into these processes. As Nasheed emerges from this community, these refractory processes illuminate his choice of climate change in the Maldives as a narrative to present to the world. Climate change's absence in my fieldwork observations as one of the forces mobilizing young Maldivians, as compared to its 'realness' outside the Maldives, indicates the ways that climate change also allows the outside world to enter into this process of seeing yourself elsewhere, as the Maldives makes tangible to them the abstraction of climate change as a symbol of what could happen to their country due to climate change.
The coup in February 2012 that led to a new Presidency adds a further wrinkle, as the new President does not use the narrative of climate change in the same way that Nasheed did, to gain international attention and points of leverage for the Maldives. The narrative is so closely associated with the former President that it is unlikely that the new President would utilize it similarly. If through Nasheed's words climate change in the Maldives came to exist more for people outside the Maldives more than for people within the Maldives as part of this process of seeing yourself and your country as elsewhere and otherwise, what does it mean now that he is no longer President of the country and it has disappeared from the Presidential discourse? Has climate change in the Maldives disappeared? Thus the experience of climate change in the Maldives opens a deeper understanding of how climate change and other transnational sign, symbols, and abstract concepts manifest themselves today.
The Effects of Elevated Soil CO2 on Plant Uptake of Metals
Sara Nason 2012
Underground carbon sequestration is becoming a popular method of mitigating global warming. By capturing CO2 emissions and injecting them into deep geologic formations, the gas is kept out of the atmosphere. However, if the CO2 leaks out of storage, it could cause many problems. At Horseshoe Lake, CA, magmatic CO2 has been flowing into the soil since 1989 causing an area of tree kill to develop. This project investigates why excess soil CO2 has such negative effects on trees as well as on other plants.
When CO2 dissolves in groundwater, it forms carbonic acid and lowers the pH of the surrounding soil. With increased acidity, the solubility of many harmful metals, including aluminum, increases dramatically, potentially causing plants to take in high amounts of toxins. Metal poisoning could be one of the reasons that high levels of CO2 are so harmful to plants. In this paper, dendrochemical analysis of Pinus contorta tree cores from Horseshoe Lake and a laboratory study where bean plants (Phaseolis vulgaris) are grown with elevated levels of soil CO2 are used to test the metal poisoning theory.
Overall, the results do not indicate that metal poisoning took place in either experiment. While dendrochemistry of other tree species has proven useful for tracking changes in soil pH and metal availability, the metal concentrations in the Pinus contorta cores did not show any remarkable reaction to the CO2 flow. Only preliminary results were obtained from the laboratory experiment, but the data shows that inhibition of nutrient uptake was a more significant effect of the CO2 than increased toxin concentrations.
Effect of Surfactant Addition of Coalescence of Oil Droplets in Water
Sarah Plummer 2012
The microfluidic study of the effect of surfactant addition on the coalescence of oil droplets in water provides a strong background for the use of dispersants in oil spill cleanups. The first phase of this project focuses on the comparison of hexadecane droplet formation in water to that of water-in-hexadecane mixtures. The second phase of this project centers on the study of water-in-hexadecane coalescence. The final phase of this project aims to achieve hexadecane coalescence in water. For both studies, experimentation was conducted with and without the addition of surfactant to the continuous stream. The coalescence of droplet pairs is measured as a function of the size, concentration, and time exposure of different surfactants. The ultimate goal of this project is to create the foundation for the study of the effects of surfactant addition on the hindrance of hexadecane coalescence in water.
Ethical Fashion: The Sustainability Movement's Impact on Consumers and Corporations
Cassie Pyle 2012
Despite ample research on the subject, there are still opposing views regarding motives for both consumers and corporations in the realm of human consumption. While traditionally consumption has been viewed as excessive and frivolous, the rise of the ethical consumer is questioning this view. In addition, the idea of ethical responsibility is taking hold in corporations where previously, only thoughts of profit were held. With environmental consciousness increasing due to the Sustainability Movement, the line between these two types of consumers and corporations is blurred. By analyzing motivations and actions through the media and Corporate Reports, it is clear that ethics play a part, but do not dominate consumers’ and corporations’ decisions. While environmental considerations have affected consumption during this Sustainability Movement, they are not the driving force behind it.
MR Spectroscopy Utilization for Low Concentration Contaminant Identification in Water
Justin Rau 2012
In the past ten years, hydraulic fracturing has become a crucial technique in natural gas extraction. A dramatic increase in its use has brought up concerns that the method is responsible for contaminating surrounding water sources with the chemicals present in fracturing fluid. However, if contamination did occur, the high volume of water used in the fracturing process combined with the immense volume of water in an aquifer would result in extremely low concentrations of contaminants.
This experiment demonstrates the use of NMR spectroscopy as a practical method for examining low concentrations of contaminants in water. In the past, proton spectroscopy with water has yielded poor results due to distortion that occurs from the 1H peak generated by water. This experiment’s method, which combines excitation sculpting with the use of an insert, significantly reduces residual peaks from the water solvent and produces usable spectra. I examine water samples from multiple sources and identify low-level contaminants in what was previously assumed to be pure water. Continued use of the described method with water samples near fracturing wells could potentially reveal whether or not the fracturing process contaminants nearby water sources.
A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Nutrition & Land-Use of Plains and Grevy’s Zebra
Bianca Reo 2012
Zebra are a keystone species pivotal to maintaining the normal dynamics of Africa’s increasingly fragile arid and semi-arid grassland ecosystems. However, due to a poor understanding of the species’ land-use patterns, the ranges and populations of both the plains (Equus burchelli) and endangered Grevy’s (Equus grevyi) zebra continue to be reduced. Current zebra behavioral studies are limited in their scope and focused primarily on the plains zebra. Consequently, I sought to conduct a more complete study of zebra land-use and diet as it relates to vegetation quality and quantity, rainfall, and herd composition. Over the course of eight weeks, I collected fecal, vegetative, and herd composition data at zebra grazing locations and random fixed points on the Mpala Research Center property, located in Laikipia, Kenya. Interestingly, my data suggests that NDVI and EVI, are not related to greenness, rather both are a proxy for vegetation quantity and plant water. I found that Grevy’s diets appear more complex than plains, but when choosing where to graze, protein abundance appears the foremost limiting factor; both species will forgo increased biomass and reduced predation risk in other habitats for this vital nutrient. After protein, when deciding where to graze, zebras maximize energy intake by selecting grass stands of increased biomass. There are differences in land-use concerning perceived risk, distance to water sources, and diet by species, sex, and reproductive state. These results suggest that zebra’s movements are non-random. Zebra exhibit behavioral plasticity by modifying their movements in the context of the situation because of their innate ability to discern among the biotic and abiotic factors around them.
Specialist Seagrass Herbivores: Plant-Animal Interactions of the Emerald Neritid Smaragdia viridis and the Bucktooth Parrotfish Sparisoma radians in Bermuda
Alissa Sasso 2012
Recent seagrass decline in Bermuda has been linked to the impact of herbivores on plant productivity. Small herbivores can consume disproportionately large amounts of seagrass biomass; this study investigated the foraging ecology of two small herbivores: the parrotfish Sparisoma radians and the gastropod Smaragdia viridis. This study investigated the role of S. viridis in seagrass community dynamics using laboratory consumption and preference trials. S. viridis did not survive on a diet of Halophila decipiens, indicating a reliance on the other seagrass species in Bermuda. S. viridis displayed a surprising preference for feeding on Syringodium filiforme; the gastropod injured three times as much epidermal tissue on S. filiforme than on T. testudinum, which the snail is believed to primarily associate with. . If this preference carries over into natural conditions, S. viridis may play a role in the outcome of competitive interactions between the pioneer species S. filiforme and the climax species T. testudinum in mixed-species meadows. The study also examined the selective mechanisms whereby S. radians chooses older Thalassia testudinum blades; an in-field tethering experiment showed that the parrotfish selectively grazed by blade age, regardless of manipulation to shoot morphology. In addition, the bite widths left on the blades varied by age of the blades, suggesting a possible ontogenetic influence on S. radians diet selection. S. radians may graze young, productive T. testudinum tissue as well. These herbivores display the ability to influence community dynamics in seagrass ecosystems and may exacerbate already stressful growing conditions in the Bermuda habitat.
Constrained Parameterization of the Duel Arrhenius and Michaelis-Menton Model of Soil Carbon Respiration for a Central Amazonian Terra Firme Rainforest Site
Steven Shonts 2012
The recently-developed Duel Arrhenius and Michaelis-Menton (DAMM) model of heterotrophic soil respiration offers promise in better representing soil carbon cycling processes in a variety of applications. In addition it is more appealing than empirical formulations due to its mechanistic construction, modular framework and physically interpretable parameters. Having shown success when tested against soil respiration data in central New England, the model was challenged with a soil respiration data set collected in central Amazonia. Parameterization of the model on the entire data set and on subsets of the data show the DAMM consistently performed as well or better than a suite of empirically-derived models. In addition the parameter estimates were robust across different subsets of data, including randomly-chosen ones. Finally, the Michaelis-Menten parameter for oxygen diffusion falls within the range found by others for a temperate New England forest, offering promise that DAMM could be applied globally with minimal modiﬁcation.
An Economic Evaluation of Water Trading Markets in the Western United States
James Smits 2012
Water is one of the most abundant resources on our planet, but the sources of freshwater humans have access to comprise only 0.26% of total global available freshwater (Gleick and Palaniappan, 2010). This constrained supply has been pressured by over allocation of resources and increasing demand for water, with total water usage in the United States doubling in the twentieth century alone (Brown, 2000). In the western US, water trading, or the act of buying and selling water rights, has emerged as a means to control for short-term and long-term uncertainty in water supplies. This thesis examines water trading markets in the western US, specifically analyzing the determinants of average annual transaction size (acre-feet) for different types of transactions (sales, leases, and exchanges) from 1987 to 2009 in 12 western states. Utilizing a fixed effects regression, the model estimates that for water sales temperature, price, and transfer type were significant determinants of transaction size. For leases, only population and price were estimated to be factors affecting transaction size. Interestingly, transfer type did not govern the volume of water transferred. Lastly, the results for water exchanges, not widely used, were generally inconclusive. The findings of this thesis have broader implications for water traders, policy makers, private investors, water utilities, and all end users of water.
Beneath the Surface: An empirical Analysis of Infant Mortality, Piped Water Access and Sanitation in Nigeria
Michaela Venuti 2012
To address the high rates of infant mortality in developing countries, worldwide initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals aim to reduce rates of infant mortality through different mechanisms including increasing water access and improving sanitation. Some countries, like Nigeria, are especially afflicted with continually high rates of infant mortality as well as low piped water access and little to no improved sanitation. Many of the initiatives aim to reduce infant mortality through increasing piped water and flush toilet infrastructure, though neither necessarily indicates a reduction of mortality rates. Accordingly, the present study attempts to demystify the relationship between rate of infant mortality and both piped water access and flush toilet usage in Nigeria. The findings of the present study indicate that, while socioeconomic status is associated with infant mortality as well as piped water access and flush toilet usage, neither piped water access nor flush toilet usage indicates a lower probability of infant mortality. The present study asserts that piped water does not necessarily equate to clean water, just as flush toilet usage does not always indicate improved sanitation. To lower infant mortality rates, it may be integral for future policy to reallocate resources from increasing piped water access and installing flush toilets to ensuring clean water access and protecting families from sewage exposure.
Silent Spring, Loud Response: The Public Mythologies and Political Impacts of Silent Spring
Elizabeth Wesche 2012
This thesis examined the factors affecting the formation of the Silent Spring mythology and tracking its impacts on the discourse of pesticide use and environmentalism. It then looked at the problems of what these discourses exclude, particularly when they are mobilized across political and geographical boundaries. It illustrated the cultural and political factors contributing to the creation of Silent Spring’s mythology. A close analysis of the text itself followed, grounding the thesis in the precise rhetorical, discursive, and specifically moral frameworks of Carson’s book. It then tracked the critical, political and regulatory responses to Silent Spring and its mythology. Finally, it examined how the Silent Spring mythology enters into international regulations, particularly focusing on the highly contentious issue of DDT’s role in malaria control.
In looking at the formation of the mythology around Silent Spring, this thesis concluded that Carson powerfully illustrates the interconnected relationship between human beings and our environment – an important observation that should receive due consideration at all levels of the policy-making process. However, the same interconnectivity also applies to a nation’s social, ecological, political and economic systems. Just as ignoring one facet of the whole profoundly impacts the others, so does unquestioningly prioritizing a single consideration. Silent Spring criticized what Carson viewed as the dangerously rigid prioritization of economic interests over other aspects of the system, particularly the environment. The more vocal supporters of Silent Spring’s rhetoric and mythology in the contemporary environmental movement, however, risk doing the same with ecological concerns by treating environmental protection as a binary choice between nature and greed. By rhetorically treating environmental interests as unequivocally good and treating any concerns that competed with those interests as economically motivated and therefore bad, Silent Spring and its growth in the cultural imagination solidified these false stereotypes within the discourse. They persist today, not only in environmentalist circles but also across disciplines. This kind of rhetoric of morality versus economics – the practical expression of Carson’s Good versus Evil dynamic in Silent Spring – underlies much of the contemporary environmental discourse, and bleeds over into other areas of political advocacy. It underlies protests against corporations and globalization; it supports advocacy for global movements to aid and protect, whether they are movements to preserve the natural environment, to end hunger, or, indeed, even to eliminate malaria. Strategies are framed in terms of the morality of the goal – the end, not the means – with economic wisdom or repercussions all-too-frequently discussed within the mainstream discourse in whispers or not at all.
Myths play important roles in raising awareness and generating political momentum by generating meanings with which anyone can identify. Yet the policy-making process must resist conflating the myths with the realities of the issues at hand. Although the myth and the reality begin by looking the same, they angle away from each other ever so slightly: the further one goes from their point of origin, the less they resemble each other after all. Practical problem-solving, whether it revolves around the environment or any other political concern, must apply to the conditions of a tangible reality, not to the ephemeral frameworks of myth.
A Time Series and Copula Approach to Forecasting Speed on State Route 167
Anna Zhao 2012
Research has shown that travel times, and by extension, speeds, have conditional distributions dependent on a combination of weather, congestion, time of day, and the presence of incidents. Because travel time is dependent on the distance traveled, this thesis uses the distribution of speeds on Washington State Route 167, and focuses on the high occupancy toll (HOT) lane and ramp metered lane, with the ultimate goal of forecasting speeds with a probability. Ramp metered lanes and HOT lanes are travel demand management methods that are cost-effective alternatives to managing congestion without increasing capacity. In the first part, we examine the relationship between speeds, weather, congestion, and collisions and find that volume is the most deciding factor for speed. We then use a time series model to forecast traffic volume, and a copula method to find the joint density relationship between speed and volume to obtain the conditional distribution of speed. We will then be able to forecast it in a weather like fashion, such as “because there is no precipitation today, expect 420 vehicles on the road at 9 a.m. and a 22% chance of traveling at speeds less than 60 mph.”
Laws of Nature: An Empirical Analysis of Environmental Justice Trends in Citizen Environmental Suits: 2000-2010
Alicia Zeng 2012
Over the last three decades, environmentalism in the United States has been shaped by two new and powerful forces: the emergence of the environmental justice (EJ) movement, a social justice campaign for the equitable environmental protection of all communities, and the rise in use of citizen environmental suits. This study examines the nexus of these two trends. It analyzes the EJ implications of citizen suit provisions in major U.S. laws, focusing on suits brought under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA). By contextualizing citizen suit enforcement outcomes in EJ theory, this study addresses how citizens’ resources—financial, political, and knowledge—impact their access to citizen suits and, in turn, environmental protections. EJ theory predicts that citizen suits disadvantage poor and minority communities from receiving the same degree of environmental law enforcement.
This study takes an empirical approach to analyzing the EJ patterns in citizen suit use, drawing from data collected from the Department of Justice for citizen suits filed between January 2000 and December 2010. The analysis replicates some of the variable analyses applied in existing citizen suit studies to update those studies’ conclusions, but also includes novel proxies for specifically measuring EJ patterns. These proxies include consideration of plaintiffs’ “base”, or primary advocacy mission, as well as a breakdown of citizen suit usage by national geography.
The analysis results strongly align with the predictions of EJ theory, showing that the use of citizen suits takes on highly variegated forms depending on a host of socio-political factors. The study found strong geographical trend divergences. The Pacific region, for example, is vastly overrepresented in total citizen suit counts and supports an exceptionally high rate of participation by small plaintiff groups. Among plaintiff “bases”, Environment-Based groups far outnumbered Community-Based groups. This suggests that mainstream environmental concerns, rather than those of EJ, dominate citizen suit use. A common thread among the analysis’ findings was the significant difference between CWA and CAA usage trends, which was posited to reflect the different logistical and economic barriers to use of each statute’s citizen suit provisions. In terms of state-specific factors, CAA case incidences correlated more closely with “top-down” state government variables, while CWA case incidences correlated more closely with “grassroots” variables including pollution levels, poverty rates, and minority representation. National-level politics showed no significant correlation to citizen suit numbers, but changes in national GDP were found to correlate with CWA, though not CAA, case numbers.
These results corroborate the hypothesis of this study that access to citizen suit trends is largely shaped by socio-political factors. Barriers to information and funding are the primary mechanisms through which disadvantaged communities are excluded from de facto access to citizen suits and the environmental protections they confer. Furthermore, the development of local networks of environmental advocacy is vital for achieving high rates of successful lawsuits. Public policy can address these factors to facilitate more just patterns of citizen suit use.
Third Party Financing and Residential Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Adoption Rates in California and New Jersey
Chenyu Zheng 2012
By 2010, the rapidly expanding solar photovoltaic (PV) industry had already eclipsed the $50 billion global advertising industry. In 2011, PV installations in the United States across all sectors grew 109% over 2010. The advancement of PV industry can be attributed to the ongoing price reduction of PV modules, subsidies such as tax credits and rebates, and government policies, including renewable portfolio standards (RPS). Yet, the most critical driver of solar’s success in residential sector is not subsidies, which is declining, but the emerging third party financing (TPF) model, in which third party companies own PV systems and sell the electricity output to building occupants. TPF removes the high upfront cost of PV systems, reduces technology risk and inconvenience (such as panel maintenance), and often generates utility bill savings from day one. These advantages can help solar PV penetrate the residential sector - the last frontier for solar to conquer. Through running OLS regressions controlling for demographic and solar PV characterization variables, this empirical study analyzes how TPF has affected total PV adoption rate and customer-owned PV adoption rate in residential sector in California and New Jersey between 2007 and 2011. With 99% confidence level, the results confirm that TPF model does positively expand the residential solar PV market, but moderately cannibalize customer-owned PV demand. This phenomenon could result from a combination of the aforementioned benefits of third party financing as well as the fact that some customers who would have bought PV systems on cash now prefer a prepaid third-party lease to monetize depreciation of PV systems. The policy implications include a justification for laws that remove barriers to TPF such as high permitting fees, provide support for other financing options (such as PACE programs), enable TPF awareness campaigns, and facilitate a market for securitization of solar assets. Further studies can explore other major TPF states such as Arizona and Colorado, and look into FICO score issue raised should there be data available.